Shortlisted for the 2019 Carnegie Medal
"A delicate, funny, poignant exploration of grief, love and memory that has the welcoming warmth of an instant classic."--The Guardian
Emily and her sister, Holly, were as close as sisters could be. They did everything together. But Holly died three months ago, and Emily's world is shattered.
Amid a sea of changes--her best friend is acting distant, she's just started at a new school, and she's been cast as the lead in the school play--Emily is surprised to find that she misses Holly's teddy bear, Bluey, almost as much as she misses Holly herself. But Bluey was buried with Holly, and there's no getting either of them back.
Then one night, Emily dreams of talking toys, who tell her they have come from the toy world with a message from Bluey. Emily is convinced she can be reunited with him. But there's something strange about the barrier between the toy world and the real world. Not just strange, but dangerous--magic is spilling out, and it's wreaking havoc on Emily's world. Now she must decide whether finding Bluey is worth risking the lives of those she loves.
"Deeply moving and highly imaginative."--The Daily Mail
"Written from the heart and can't fail to make yours sing."--The Times, Book of the Week
"One of the wittiest books of the year."--The Sunday Times
"Suffused with longing and dappled with humor, this novel explores the limits of grief and the lasting power of storytelling."--Wall Street Journal
"From whimsical comicality to impending danger...a standalone title, in which the topic of loss is dealt with deftly. For readers willing to let their imagination soar, this fantasy may be just what they are looking for, especially if they have experienced grief."--School Library Journal
"An imaginative, magical story ideal for kids experiencing loss."--Kirkus Reviews
"Wise in the ways of loss as Emily discovers that the route through grief lies not in escaping to Smockeroon but in engaging with the hard world, in the passage of time, in friendship, memory, and, above all, storytelling."--The Horn Book, Starred Review
"A refreshing take on the classic theme of toys coming to life, with the residents of Smockeroon amusingly sassy and self involved. There is still plenty of warmth...while the magical elements cushion the heftier themes...A pleasing blend of sentiment and humor."--Bulletin
"Saunders combines the hard reality of loss and the soft comfort of fantasy surprisingly well, offering unexpected humor in Smockeroon as well as sharp insights into human characters."--Booklist
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||10 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
When Holly died, Bluey suddenly fell silent and all the lights went out in Smockeroon.
Holly’s bedroom was an empty cave that Emily was scared to walk past at night.
Men came to rip out the special lift for her chair, the huge hoist over the bath, and all the other things Holly didn’t need anymore.
Emily had grown up saying “My sister is disabled,” and now she had to get used to saying “My sister is dead.”
It had happened nearly three months before, at the beginning of the summer holidays. Holly had one of her seizures in the middle of the night, and this time, her heart stopped. Dad had used exactly those words when he told Emily--“Her heart stopped.” When nobody was looking, Emily put her hand on her own chest to feel the reassuring thud-thud-thud of her heartbeat. How did her heart know to keep on beating? It scared her to think what a fragile thing it was. People didn’t realize how close they were to dropping dead. She overheard someone saying that her parents’ hearts were “broken” and worried that this would make them more likely to stop.
The counselor at the hospital wanted Emily to talk about her feelings. She kept asking Emily about that morning, the terrible morning, when she woke to find Holly’s room empty, and her parents sitting at the kitchen table like a pair of white-faced zombies. Everyone nagged her to “talk,” as if that would solve everything.
But I don’t know how to say I miss Bluey, she wrote in her secret book. I can’t even say his name because it makes them cry.
Bluey had been Holly’s favorite toy--a bright blue teddy bear, always at Holly’s side, for all the fifteen years of her life. He had a special place on her wheelchair, and on the metal frame of her bed. Long ago, as a very little girl, Emily had started doing a voice for Bluey. And then she had started telling stories about him, and the silly adventures he and Holly had when nobody was looking, in a magical land called Smockeroon. Emily had no idea where this word had come from, or how it had popped into her head, but it made Holly smile until her whole face lit up--though she couldn’t talk and was nearly blind, she’d understood a lot more than people thought. Mum and Dad began to do Bluey’s voice and repeat his daft sayings, until he lived with them like an invisible member of the family.
None of it had seemed real to Emily until Mum gave Bluey to the man from the undertaker’s, to put in Holly’s coffin.
Emily couldn’t find the words to explain why this made her so dreadfully sad. Of course Bluey had to be with his owner--that was the rule with toys. She didn’t want her parents to think she cared more about a stuffed bear than she did about her sister. People who were in the first year of middle school were supposed to be too old for soft toys anyway. But Bluey had been so much more than a toy. Emily needed to remember as much about him as possible, because each memory of Bluey contained a bit of Holly.
This was why Emily had started the secret book--to save Bluey. She had invented a fiendish code that nobody (not even her best friend, Maze, who was the queen of nosy parkers) would be able to read. One of her birthday presents, a few months ago, had been a small, chunky notebook with a bright pink cover. Emily carried it everywhere. Whenever she remembered something about Bluey or Smockeroon, she wrote it carefully in her book, in tiny writing like the tracks of an ant.
On the first day of her mother’s new job, Emily wrote Toffee teapot.
She was reminding herself about a story from Smockeroon that had suddenly come back to her during break--when Bluey had invited Holly to tea and his new teapot had melted because it was made of toffee.
Holly had liked the sound of words that began with “t”; she had smiled and made the huffing sound that meant she was laughing.
Oh, Holly and Bluey, I miss you so much.
“It’s just not fair,” said Maze. “I shouldn’t have to hang about at the doctor’s office after school. It’s so BORING--you won’t let me use my phone and there’s nobody to talk to.”
Maze (short for Maisie) Miller had been Emily’s best friend since forever. Their backyards backed onto each other, so that they had always been able to run between the two houses without crossing any roads. Maze was a tall, confident person with a loud voice, a big mouth and long black hair that she could sit on, and she was planning to be famous for something when she grew up. Emily was shorter and quieter, with thin blond hair, a pale face and embarrassingly big feet that she kept tripping over.
“Do stop moaning,” said Maze’s mother. “For the last time, I’m not leaving you alone in the house.” Maze’s mum, Jo, was one of the doctors at the very busy local health center, and this was her day to drive Maze and Emily home from their new school. “You can always do your homework.”
“No I can’t--I need some time to relax first. Don’t blame me if I fail all my exams. You should’ve let me go to Summer’s.”
Summer Watson was the most glamorous person in their new class, and Maze was obsessed with her. She longed to be Summer’s best friend and trailed after her like an adoring dog.
“What about Emily? According to the carpool schedule, I’d still be picking her up--and then I’d have to drive across town again to fetch you, and I’m not your personal chauffeur.”
“Oh.” Maze glanced over her shoulder at Emily in the backseat.
The fact was that Maze had been weird since Holly died--distant, and not listening properly. When the two of them were alone she didn’t want to talk, and even looked a little surprised when Emily spoke to her, as if she’d only just noticed she was there. This was painful, especially at school, where they were the only two girls from their elementary school and didn’t know anyone else. Sometimes Emily was so lonely that it was like being invisible.
“Let’s hear from Emily for a change,” Jo said, giving her a smile in the rearview mirror. “Today’s your first time at Ruth’s, isn’t it? Well, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Oh, yes,” said Emily. “Fine.” This wasn’t true, but nobody wanted to listen to the truth, which was that she hated all the changes. They kept coming, one after the other, as if Holly’s death had pulled the plug out of the whole world and sent it rushing down the drain.